Sunday, July 09, 2006

Just Visiting

It was a bit odd the week or two before the trip back to Chicago. There was this mixture of feelings. Enthusiasm to be going back, but also a bit of sadness realizing we are no longer residents, but only visitors. What I mean is no longer being a insider. Specifically it was about restaurants, bars, and buildings. To know a city is to know the good places to eat or have a drink. Not the fad places, the good places. Unfortunately, that line of business can be fleeting, so usually residents are the ones who know relatively new places other than the stalwarts.

As for the building industry. I came across a post talking about upcoming additions to the Chicago skyline. Of course the major projects I had already heard about. It piqued my interest to catch up on many of the new projects. As I was checking out the website showing current construction photos, it was then I felt the outsider. Project after project were unknown to me. Plus many had been worked on by offices I had worked at or offices where friends or acquaintences do work or had worked at. It was very uneasy. You see, I have been following construction of downtown high rises in Chicago since high school. I have been compiling books about it and studying the history. So I was quite happy when I began working on those buildings when I entered the work world. Becoming part of it all. Now, I'm not terribly sad to not be a part of it today, but I was a bit sad that week before leaving.

The interesting thing is that the morning after arriving, we took a quick drive around downtown. Although I have been out of town, I was able to point out to family members who live there which building was which or what new building is planned for this site or the other. It wasn't much, but that connection to the city felt better.

Here are a few other minor points about the visit.

This visit has been different. More time observing and thinking about how things are different between the two places. I had done that before, but this time many of my previous observations have been documented here on this blog. So my mind was not rehashing many of the same observations. I spent more time looking at the minor details and how they contribute to the whole. Sometimes trying to pinpoint vague perceived differences.

One thing that felt comforting and made me feel like home was being in the presense of a much higher percentage of African-Americans and Latinos. Seeing them and their sub-cultures added to the feeling of being at home. I found this a bit odd because when I first got here to Montreal, I found the homogenaity of the population a bit comforting. Weird isn't it that both situations could have a comforting affect.

Extremism, bigger, more selection (or at least more choices of the same thing). Again it was odd to have a sense of being home with things like 24 hr phamacies, ATM's in every nook & cranny, monster grocery stores. Or the increased materialism. Everyone with the latest gadgets whether they need it or not. A life at full throttle that I'd not necessarily prefer to experience everyday, but comfortable for a short visit like an old sweater. There are pluses to these things along with the negatives.

Lastly the trip reaffirmed how aggressive the drivers are in Chicago. It still makes me wonder how Montreal has gotten a reputation for bad drivers. It's a question I'll post on Metroblogging Montreal in a couple weeks.

As I mentioned last week, there are many other ideas for posts that came out of this trip. So many more observations and comparisions to come.


Anonymous said...


I am a Chicagoan that is going to be moving to Montreal this fall for Grad School. I was interested in your comments about the higher percentage of African-Americans and Latinos in Chicago compared to the relative homogenaity of Montreal. I was lead to believe that Montreal was an ultra diverse city. Is this true, and yet because of the size of Chicago it is even more diverse, is the makeup of Montreal's population changing rapidly, or is Montreal's diversity just a bunch of over hyped bs?
Also, where do you watch Bear's Games in Montreal?

Unknown said...


The diversity question is a good one. I have been planning on a post about the subject that I think I'll try to finish and post soon. Basically my impression is this. There are many nationalities (primarily latin-based or french speaking) that are much more prevelant in Montreal. Some examples are Haitian, Portugese, Lebonnese. But my thinking is that the diversity falls in a much smaller percentage of the population. French speaking Quebeckers make up 54% of the city of Montreal followed by English speaking at 19%. See my post on Oct 7, 2005. It has it all broken down.

On the flip side there seemed to be much more diversity among the general population in Chicago. Irish, German, Polish, Filipino, Greek, Italian, Jewish, African-American, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Mexican... It could be that they are just different nationalities, but my impression is that the diversity is more pervasive.

So I'm not saying it is BS, but I need to do more research to see if there is a difference. It could be just the background of the people making the observations. I'm getting the same impression about the drivers here. People keep saying how bad they are, but I'm just not seeing it.

As for Bears games, I haven't looked into it though I really should have. The networks tend to carry the Patriots or the NY teams.

I'll need to do a 'Best of' soon for those who are just tuning in.